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Investing In Entrepreneurs Fundamental To South Africa’s Economic Future


by on 09/11/12 at 4:00 pm
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Between 12 and 18 November the world marks Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). Yet on the back of the latest Census results, which reveals a higher-than-expected unemployment rate of 29,8 percent, Tracey Webster, CEO of The Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship – Virgin’s non-profit initiative – says we should take stock of our entrepreneurship challenges during GEW and collectively find ways to solve them.

She says, “The Medium Term Budget and Census results were released recently. Both suggest we have a lot to do in so far as getting South Africa ‘back to work’. The reality is we have a shrinking tax base due, in part, to the millions who live on social welfare because of lack of work or relevant skills to secure work. By boosting entrepreneurship we can support small businesses to grow into high impact entrepreneurs who add value to the economy by employing staff.”

Yet given that entrepreneurship represents just 30% of the GDP* “much more is needed to be done to tackle South Africa’s economic and unemployment challenges through collaborative entrepreneurship development” says Webster.

She goes on to say that entrepreneurs face myriad challenges when starting or sustaining a business venture. Among them is a lack of industry-related experience. “Gone are the days of spending several years gaining work experience or being an apprentice. This is because many start their businesses too young or too quickly – out of necessity – at the risk of not being exposed to critical tricks of the trade.”

To address this, The Branson Centre has developed a series of Industry Masterclasses in partnership with experts within a particular field. This is so that entrepreneurs can learn from them and apply insights to their own businesses. “The classes have been very successful and will form part of our regular 2013 training and development programme as we can clearly see the gap it is filling,” she says.

Raksha Mahabeer, co-founder of Summer Time, a design, branding and marketing agency based in Jo’burg shares her view, “Before joining the Centre in April this year, my business partner and I were convinced that we understood the ins and outs of running a business. But exposed to the Centre’s training we were mistaken. Key to our growth has been understanding business processes, understanding our market, compliance, driving innovation and building our networks through mentoring and meeting fellow students.”

This focus on building networks is a cornerstone to The Branson Centre. Its most recent initiative, Open For Business, is a case in point: A series of community-based entrepreneurship festivals in Jo’burg, it gives entrepreneurs a platform to trade from, as well as meet like-minded peers and mentors.

“We launched Open For Business in September so we could interact with small business owners in their locale. We’ve already hosted events in Katlehong and Alexandra, while the flagship event will take place in Soweto on 3rd November. Over 40 entrepreneurs are confirmed and we expect a great turn-out from the community.”

Nedbank, which is driving its own entrepreneurship initiative, Small Business Friday, is also involved after seeing an opportunity to collaborate, “We are delighted to partner with the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in its efforts to grow entrepreneurship and help address challenges facing small business. Our association with the Centre started building on the launch of the Small Business Friday™, which seeks to rally South Africa in support of small businesses,” said Nirmala Reddy, Senior Manager of Enterprise Development at Nedbank.

As for what 2013 holds, Webster concludes by saying The Centre will continue to drive partnerships, broker opportunities and support its entrepreneurs. This is so they have the skills and relevant experience to tackle the challenging, and at times daunting, task of being a small business owner in tough operating conditions.

“As our founder and namesake Sir Richard Branson said, ‘Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the engines that power our economies, create jobs, fuel growth and ultimately, transform communities’. We agree.”

Ideate is one of South Africa's biggest business blogs, with a team of authors all of whom have had entrepreneurial experience. Ideate is read by entrepreneurs thinking BIG. Follow us on Twitter here. View more articles by Staff Reporter.

Tags: branson centre, CTEW, entrepreneurship, gauteng, gew, global entrepreneurship week, Joburg, richard branson, South Africa, Tracey Webster

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